WASHINGTON — CHINA and the Soviet Union, the two largest communist nations, both could send growing numbers of emigr'es to the United States - but for opposite reasons. In the USSR, the new policy of openness allows growing numbers of Soviets to seek a fresh start in the US. In China, repression is driving people toward the West.
Currently, the Chinese emigr'e focus is on Hong Kong, which reverts to Chinese rule in 1997 under a treaty with Great Britain. China's recent military repression of the student democracy movement sent shivers through Hong Kong - population 3.4 million.
The United States accepts up to 5,000 Hong Kong citizens as immigrants each year. One bill now moving through Congress would double that. But Rep. John Porter (R) of Illinois doesn't think that measure goes far enough, and has introduced legislation that would increase Hong Kong's quota to 50,000 a year.
According to a Porter aide, the bill has three purposes:
1. Send China a message: If Chinese repression continues, the US will provide a safety valve to let people out. The result would be a ``brain drain'' that would leave little for the Chinese to take over.
2. Send Britain a message. If the United Kingdom won't allow Hong Kong residents to emigrate to Britain, even though they carry British passports, then the UK should at least lead a Western effort to save the people of the colony.
3. Send Hong Kong a message. If no one else will help, ``the US should welcome them because they are exactly the kind of people we want, people with an understanding of capitalism and great entrepreneurial ability.''
The Porter aide, who asked not to be identified, says fears that 3.4 million Chinese from Hong Kong would swamp London are groundless. It is estimated that about 6 percent, or just over 200,000 people, would migrate to Britain if they were free to do so, the aide says.
Presently about 45,000 people a year leave Hong Kong. Most go to Singapore, Canada, Australia, and the US.
The aide says Mr. Porter feels Asian immigrants are making important contributions to America. So would the people of Hong Kong, he says.
``This is an historic and unique situation,'' the aide contends. ``Porter says these people deserve special status. They would not be a burden on our economy. And they should fit in here because they have already been acclimated to British-type society.''